The PJ Tatler

State Dept. Uses City Names Only to Avoid Calling Jerusalem Part of Israel

In the latest six-month interval required under law, President Obama this afternoon used executive authority to suspend once again a 1995 bill requiring the government to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

And over at his State Department, press materials surrounding the secretary’s trip this week stated cities only — breaking from convention in which destinations are noted by country — to avoid saying that Jerusalem is part of Israel.

“I hereby determine that it is necessary, in order to protect the national security interests of the United States, to suspend for a period of 6 months the limitations set forth in sections 3(b) and 7(b) of the Act,” Obama said in a short memorandum to the secretary of State that copies the exact language from past orders.

Under the act, which was overwhelmingly approved in House and Senate, the Embassy was supposed to be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999.

George W. Bush suspended the requirements of the bill, too, but always included this sentence in his memos: “My Administration remains committed to beginning the process of moving our embassy to Jerusalem.”

This State Department, on the other hand, released a press advisory in 2012 that noted an official’s travel to “Jerusalem and Israel.” That renewed calls from Congress for Obama to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.

After that flub, a reporter asked then-spokeswoman Victoria Nuland if it’s the State Department’s position that Jerusalem is not part of Israel.

“Well, you know that our position on Jerusalem has not changed,” Nuland responded. “The first Media Note was issued in error without appropriate clearances. We reissued the note to make clear that Under Secretary – Acting Under Secretary for R, Kathy Stephens, will be traveling to Algiers, Doha, Amman, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. With regard to our Jerusalem policy, it’s a permanent status issue; it’s got to be resolved through negotiations between the parties.”

When grilled further about what the capital of Israel is, Nuland replied, “Our Embassy, as you know, is located in Tel Aviv.”

This practice seemed to be put in place — name just cities to avoid having to commit to assigning them to a country — when announcing Secretary of State John Kerry’s schedule last week.

Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Brussels, Chisinau, Jerusalem and Ramallah from December 3 to 6.

In Brussels, Secretary Kerry will attend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Foreign Ministerial and associated meetings December 3-4.

In Chisinau, Secretary Kerry will meet with senior Moldovan officials. He will discuss bilateral issues, as well as Moldova’s path toward European integration.

In Jerusalem, Secretary Kerry will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss a range of issues including Iran and the negotiations with the Palestinians. In Ramallah, Secretary Kerry will meet with President Abbas where he will also discuss the ongoing final status negotiations, among other issues.

Conversely, an Oct. 11 press release named countries: “Secretary Kerry Travel to Afghanistan, France, United Kingdom.”

A Sept. 5 press release was on “Secretary Kerry’s Travel to Lithuania, France, and the United Kingdom.”

An Aug. 8 press release noted “Secretary of State John Kerry’s Travel to Colombia and Brazil.”

And a July 31 release said: “Secretary Kerry Travel to Islamabad, Pakistan and London, United Kingdom.”